Mark Thornton's Locust - The Story So Far Part 3 Part 1


Well with the car largely sorted for autotesting now was the time to put her back on the road.

Rather than make it an open ended chapter, I decided to be cruel to be kind and booked the car in for MOT, leaving myself about 3 or 4 weeks to get her up to MOT standard.

First up was the lights, Tony called round and had them sorted in a jiffy…just basically bad earthing and a couple of loose wires. We then set about putting in some dash lights, oil pressure, battery, handbrake, indicators with buzzers, and these were all completed without fuss. He wired in the fog light and that was all the lighting done, just put the locust next to my car one evening and set the aim of the headlights to suit.

The window wipers packed up at one of the first events, and I had a spare mini setup which worked, this was stripped and partly rebuilt, but encountered problems with it and time was not on my side. So I decided to cheat and take the screen off!!!

Mirrors were put on, and everything checked over that I could think of. The day came and it was trailered to the test centre and unloaded. I so wanted her to pass as Mark had got a kit and wanted to go out for jaunts with him

The tester did the necessary and found one advisory…not bad but the best bit was it passed.

Insured and taxed and we were in business, but I thought that autotesting would have sorted all the niggles, however driving on the road brought out more issues.

The main thing was the mountings for the cycle wings, when driving on the roads….the wings were vibrating and then one would snap causing the wing to flap about, this was a real pain when trying to go out with my friend, and a vital repair toolkit was essential on every outing!!!

The solution to this will be to fab up some new ones, and is a job earmarked for the future as bits have been welded on and hope they should last a bit longer now.

A problem when autotesting was that for some reason it had a reason to eat fuel pumps, maybe every 3 months or so, this was odd and we could not figure it out, which also left a little thought to the back of your mind was it going to fail when out on the road.

So the car was used this summer (2006) like that, and we grabbed the odd evening and Sunday out in the cars, but occasionally we would come off a roundabout at the same time and stamp on the throttle, and it transpired that Marks Robin Hood had the edge, but not much in it given the fact he has a 2.0 Pinto and I was a 1.6 zetec.

Now the one thing that I have certainly found is that kit cars are never finished…you are always looking at ways of improving them, especially when being used in competition, so I always thought that a 1.8 would be a worthwhile transplant. Don’t ask me why I did not do that in the first place…..but the 1.6 was there at the time and was the right money.

So one day on the dangerous place known as Ebay I stumbled across a 1.8 escort XR3i 130 model. It was a K plate, 90k miles and had 12 months MOT, been relisted due to the fuse box failing at collection and the guy fixed the problem and tested it to. The bidding commenced and my limit was 250, getting close to the end it was between me and another guy, as the auction ended when I was at work I punched in a last resort bid of 300.26.

When the auction was checked, I had won the car, and upon checking the bid history the other bidder had bid 300 flat so I got it buy the narrowest of margins. Arrangements were made for collection, and the other bidder contacted me to see what I was doing with the car. We established that he wanted different bits to me, and we agreed prices so he got the wheels, front bumper and back axel which had the disks on, agreed price 220 so was well happy with that.

We (the other half and I) went off to Lincoln to collect it and trailered it back what with it having no tax or insurance, got her home and parked it in the garage ready to start the strip down.

I had a boys weekend away in Blackpool planned and Phil kindly agreed to collect the XR3 and ferry it to his works where he was going to remove the engine for me (kind man he is) So while I was drinking lemonade (erm……!!!!) Phil was wielding spanners and removed the lump. The car was by no means a perfect example…it had had its day and did not break my heart breaking it.

An ad was placed on Ebay saying it was being broken for spares, and that also got rid of some parts, then a second one was done which also got rid of some more and finally the interior was put on separately and also sold. Now by this point a vast chunk of the car had been sold, which was good, but I now had a shell sat on my trailer that I could not move and rendered the trailer unusable while the Escort was on it, so probably 6-8 weeks after getting it, and upon our return from holiday I decided to go and weigh in the shell as I felt that everything had been sold what could and that I had everything to allow me to do the change.

The car was picked up off the trailer by the grab; squashed and thrown onto a heap…….K321 GWR was to be no more. What surprised me was how much I got for the shell…..it was very close to 50.

When I totalled up what I sold from the car it turned out it was about 430. So was 100 up on buying and collecting….and I had the engine to which goes for 150 - 175. Brilliant.

The engine sat in the garage until I had a suitable window between events to carry out the change and this time came in November. Mark came round and the car had its 1.6 engine removed, and the 1.8 was checked, rocker cover was painted, block painted, timing belt and tensioners were changed, and everything was cleaned that was going back onto the car. This work was carried out mostly on evenings, and loved working in the garage on these dark cold nights, heater on, radio on rather than sat in front of the TV.

In addition I wanted to know that the engine was what it was supposed to be…i.e. a 130bhp model, tried to find engine number and could not. We noted down all the markings on the block and Tony the auto sparkie checked these at work, nothing matched, and I needed to find RQB stamped somewhere, a bit more looking and we found it right at the top of the engine, and with a matching engine number too. So it was a 130 model.

Hurdle No 1 appeared at this point and the spigot bearing was put in. We then went to put the clutch onto the new engine, and we found that the retaining bolts for the clutch were at a bigger diameter than the 1.6. The only solution was to remove the flywheel from the 1.6, we checked the pick up holes in the back were the same for the crank sensor, and was deemed they were, so on went the flywheel. It can only be put on one way as the holes are off centre, as it needs to know when it’s TDC for the spark to happen at the right time.

The engine bay was cleaned following the oil pipe blowing off at an autotest, and bits and pieces were also done to the car that were required, namely the fuel tank removed to sort the leak that happened when it was above half full, and changing of the fuel pump and insertion of a pressure regulator

The time came to put the engine in, and again working late one evening soldiered on to get the engine into its new home. It went in relatively easy and even the gearbox spline slid down the shaft and it all bolted up nicely, added the ancillaries change the oil and filters, put in the ECU, change the throttle body and then we thought about the air flow meter, looked inside and it was considerably smaller than the throttle body….bugger. I had the air box previously but stupidly thrown it away…and not thought to keep the airflow meter……I was livid with myself, but luckily a fellow friend is doing the same engine transplant in his Westfield, and had a spare meter that he did not need, so this was donated to the cause.

At about 10pm one night we were ready for the start-up, key in, fuel pump starting to buzz, and turn. The engine turned over, and that’s all it did……turn.

Checked for spark. Not there, checked fuel pressure in the rail…none, something is not right, so called it a night and phoned Tony.

The next evening he called round, and we changed the Crank sensor, no difference, then he thought the flywheel was not on right but showed him on the other engine that it would only go on one way, that ruled out that one, so we changed the ECU back over. We knew that the 1.8 was ok as it was running, but when the 1.6 ECU was put on it sparked and fuelled but would still not start as they ‘just were not talking to each other at the right times’

Tony then went away and did some research at work and we found that the wiring looms were different….bugger as the loom was well gone.

So I needed to source a loom, and this was proving hard, upon surfing the dangerous place again I stumbled across some twin 40 Dellorto carbs with a zetec manifold. Mmmmm thought…..that would be interesting so in went the bid. They were won at 220, and postage was 10, so now I was heading down a different route altogether.

Next up was to get the spark, and this was going to be done using a

system called Megajolt and appears to becoming more popular amongst kit owners; this was ordered direct from the supplier in America and arrived 4 days later. 88 for the unit including shipping then had to pay VAT and I fee to parcel force, so total was about 120.

Next up was fitting all this kit, the relevant mounting stuff was purchased for the carbs, a EDIS unit which was needed to run the megajolt system (this puts the car in limp home mode if the mega jolt fails which sets the timing at a constant 10 TDC) and the boys all assembled in my garage to get the work done, these were myself, Mark (with the robin hood), Tony (the auto sparkie) and Lee, (Marks boss who is doing the same engine transplant with his Westfield….and megajolt expert due to the amazing amount of time spare him and Mark have at work)

The carbs were put into place and Tony was thrusted a few sheets of paper and a silver box along with the EDIS module and left to sort it out. The electrics were loosely put in place and then the big test came. The car was turned over…..coughing a bit as fuel made its way through and then burst into life…albeit on the EDIS module to ensure that worked, the mark on the bottom pulley was checked with a timing light and when the engine was revved stayed static, thus a sign that the EDIS was doing its job.

We then plugged in the megajolt and could see that the timing was altering and that the megajolt was doing its stuff, and then a map was uploaded to the system and the engine note noticeably changed. It was then a case of playing with the system and getting the wiring all hard wired in ready for a rolling road session.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the throttle linkage, one was purchased from ebay, it arrived and was fitted, however when the carbs were offered up to the manifold the linkage that linked the carbs together fouled the inlet manifold, and meaning it was no good, we tried various different ways of trying to get it to work, thus to no avail.

This linkage was then returned to the seller and a different one was purchased, and when this was offered up to the carbs things looked a bit more promising, then when the threaded link bar was clipped onto the balls it was found that it fouled when the throttle was opened, this was a blow as the car was booked in for rolling roading the next morning with an event planned for the Sunday.

I called the tuners to tell them the state of play, and he said to bring it down and they would have a look at it, so the car was delivered and left with them. A phone call came early afternoon, and they too had been stumped by the linkage and asked me if they could remove the carbs and give them to a guy to get one fabricated.

The car remained with them until one week later, and went to collect it. It was parked in the car park, and I could not resist a blast up the road, tail snaking and wheels spinning it seemed it was going to be good fun, onto the trailer and home.

The next event was new years eve 2006, and the car was then finally prepped ready for this event, and sat on the trailer ready for the off.

Race day came and we arrived at the test site, took the car off the trailer and opened up the bonnet, all the other competitors were over for a peak as a new motor always gets interest, and feedback was good, which always makes a job like this so worth while.

The day went well, and I did not even have to open the toolbox. The end of the event loomed and it looked like a problem free day, and the car even took a pasting several times round the tests giving various people a run out.

The results were done and I had discovered that I had clinched the Durham autotest championship overall by 3 points, in the car that made its debut in February for its first time.

So that’s this year over with, the Locust has been in my possession for just over 3 years now and has changed a lot since I went and collected her. The work does not stop here though I have more planned, this consists of

  • Revamp the front suspension to adjustable coilovers and wishbones
  • Revamp the rear suspension to adjustable coilovers and move the panhard rod, and also rose joint it
  • Make a new dash board, with instruments that will be some use, a speedo and rev counter may be useful.

So lets hope the weather is kind this summer 2007 and get some more miles under her belt, both competitively and non competitively.

Hope to see you at the shows – I hope to get to a few this year.




Mark Thornton's Locust - Whitby Autotest August 2007 Top

Whitby Auto Test Video August 2007

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Mark Thornton's Locust - The Story So Far Part 3 Part 1



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